Tag Archives: LibTeachMeet

Thing 7: real-life networks

20 Jun

CC image courtesy of Aidan Jones on Flickr.

Throughout my traineeship I’ve been lucky to have been given lots of opportunities to go out and meet other professionals in the field. The first proper “networking” activities that I was part of was with the London Research Libraries Trainee Programme. The graduate trainees of the various libraries of the University of London take part in visits and events to help them understand how different libraries run and the roles within them. The first event, a welcome party at the start of the year, taught me a couple of things about networking events: 1) that I will attempt to eat as much free food as possible and 2) that I freeze up whenever I’m told to “network”.

This is something I’ve consistently encountered with each event I go to. Socialising informally – fine, but when it’s timetabled in as “networking opportunity”, I get all awkward and begin to panic. What this “thing” has brought to my attention though is that, thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Joeyanne Libraryanne’s great blog post on networking for introverts has really been insightful and hopefully I can use the tips that she highlights from “Networking for people who hate networking” to take some of the pressure off next time I’m faced with the dreaded networking opportunity. But what’s really important for me is to not look at it as a structured activity but just as free time when I can chat to other people who are in the same place for similar reasons.

Though I feel like I’ve become more comfortable networking in real life as time goes on, there are a couple of things that I’ve found impact on what I get out of it: firstly, going to an event with someone that I already know. Though this is very nice, I do have the tendency to talk to only them for the whole time and personally, being on my own forces me to push past the awkward-barrier and have a chat to other people. Secondly, I’ve been finding that sometimes I’m just not “in the mood” for networking. I think I have a mixture of introvert and extrovert characteristics, and presumably this is the more introverted side of me that sometimes just wants to be alone or with people that I know and are comfortable with. For me, the only way around this is to just fight through the unwilling thoughts and get stuck in.

I became a member of both CILIP and ARLIS this year to take advantage of the fact that graduate trainees are charged at student rates (otherwise membership would be a really tricky decision as it is quite expensive). I enjoy being a member and getting the publications sent to me and I think I have been to quite a few events with both organisations. Admittedly I don’t have much of an excuse as I’m in London where most things are happening and I have lovely employers who encourage me to go to workshops, visits, conferences.

With ARLIS (the Arts Libraries Society), I’ve been to a workshop on art and design reference resources, an event on art librarianship as a career and a visit to the National Maritime Museum. All these events have been fantastically helpful and interesting in their own way and because it’s all about arts libraries everything is directed very much the way I’d like my career to go.

CILIP events are obviously much broader and I’ve really enjoyed getting a sense of other tempting routes of librarianship. The New Professionals Day held fairly recently was a fantastic opportunity and there was lots of time in between sessions and at breaks to network.

I’ve also been to a couple of things run by cpd25  including a visit to the Wellcome Library and a one-day conference on applying to library school. I’d recommend keeping an eye on their events page to anyone working in an academic library in London as they do arrange really interesting things.

These have, for the most part, been paid events but there are still a wealth of networking (and professional development) events that you can attend without paying a penny. The London LibTeachMeet is probably the best event that I’ve been to, for networking and for information. It had a great atmosphere and there was an opportunity to meet all kinds of librarians and information professionals. I’ve found that at London events, it’s often hard to meet someone not working at an academic library, so for me it was a chance to speak to people in other sectors. I’ve also attended visits and meet-ups organised online. LISNPN is a great one for organising nice pub meetups and, thanks to Rosie, I went on a visit to various libraries in Oxford which was organised through the forum.

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London LibTeachMeet 2012

19 May

Monday this week marked the occasion of two exciting ‘firsts’ for me: my first LibTeachMeet and my first attempt to live-tweet something. Two words of warning before I get started, I’m going to bravely attempt to write up my memories of the whole event so this might turn into a mammoth post…and there will be many mentions of the amazing cake.

For those who aren’t aware, a LibTeachMeets are an informal way for library and information professionals to share ideas, experiences and skills, whilst sampling [gorging themselves on] cake. I’d first heard about the concept from someone on a visit to Oxford and jumped at the opportunity to become ‘an enthusiastic audience member’ when I heard about this year’s London event.

The topic was Supporting Diverse Learners and to kick off the evening was a nice little networking activity showing the diversity of the attendants, making us talk about how we differed and what things we had in common. Then it was down to the real business of the night, a mixture of 5- and 2-minute speakers from a range of backgrounds:

Sue Merrick: Curating with students and teachers

Sue works in an international school library and spoke about using websites to guide students through project work and actually used one of the websites she recommends – Jog the web – for her presentation. It was a great whizz through online resources, some of which I’d heard of, like Scoop it, and others which were completely new to me, like Symbaloo.

Ka-Ming Pang (presenting on behalf of Carly Miller): How can public libraries engage with homeless people through outreach activity?

This talk explored the issues that homeless people face and how public libraries can provide support for them through access to computers, bibliotherapy, literacy training and providing free study spaces. There are barriers in some public libraries, such as needing a permanent address to borrow, or even use the IT facilities, but the Quaker Mobile Library was an innovative case study of how a library service can operate without excluding homeless users.

Adam Edwards: A game to teach less confident speakers about resources

The best way to tell us about the game that Adam thought up to improve literacy skills was to get us all to do a ‘speed-version’ of it. Groups of 4 were given mixed up sets of laminated cards, one set had the names of resources (e.g. non-fiction book, journal, website) and others had descriptions of them and what you might find in each. The game was very engaging and you could see how it was a great way to get everyone involved and thinking about the types of resources out there.

Kate Lomax: Teaching technical skills to non-technical types

Kate spoke about how library staff could learn technical skills and how the usual barriers to using e-learning where a lack of collaboration or understanding about how or why you need training. She gave cpd23 and the Code Year programme as examples of successful tools for learning technical skills, due to the community that has formed around them, providing support and feedback. Kate had an interesting suggestion that we need 23 more things for cpd with a more technie focus. (I’ll need to get this 23 done first!)

Anne Pietsch: Engaging diverse learners through audio technologies

Having learnt a bit about audio technologies when I visited the library at the RNIB, I was really interested in Anne’s talk. She spoke about the potential for using things like voice recognition software and text-to-speech for all students, not just those with physical or learning disabilities. Since everyone has different ways in which they best learn and work, it’s great to raise awareness about technologies like these.

Barbara Band: Start at the beginning – differentiated uses of covers and starts

I loved Barbara’s talk about the activities she uses to improve the levels of literacy and interest in younger pupils at secondary school and it really put some ideas in my head about wanting to work in a school library. Barbara scans a variety of book covers and prints them onto card to give out to groups (less intimidating than presenting them with a pile of books) and asks them to match the genres to the covers. She can vary the difficulty but asking them to assign more than one genre or giving them tricky covers to suss out. Another activity involved typing up the first page or paragraph (type instead of scan so you can choose where to end it, preferably on a cliffhanger!) and ask them to pick their favourite and explain why they think it’s good.

Suzanne Rush: Cultural awareness

Suzanne showed us an activity that she’s used to help front-line library staff working in a university with a high percentage of international students. Members of the audience were given one of three sets of cards which told them which planet they were from and their traditional greeting. They then had to go round the group, greeting everyone and finding other people from their planet. After a few moments of silliness and LOTS of handshaking, they were asked how the activity made them feel. The response was that it made them feel awkward and isolated, but then relief when they found someone from their ‘planet’. It was a really interesting method of helping counter staff empathise with international students.

Alison Chojna: Skills Days

This talk really got me excited (you can tell by the amount I tried to tweet during it) and I’d love to be able to take the ideas back to my library. Alison told us about the Skills Days that London South Bank University has started holding on topics such as referencing, searching techniques and plagiarism. Faced with issues of timetabling and non-attendance for skills training, they came up with the solution of holding all-day drop-in sessions with workbooks on the various topics for students to work through, ask for help when they needed it and take it away when they left. The monthly skills days were a success and the attendance numbers that Alison mentioned were pretty impressive. Although printing and staffing for the events were an issue, they were outweighed by the benefits that students gained by being able to see people face-to-face and take material away with them.

Julia Abell: Search preparation – reaching mixed users

Julia spoke about how information professionals can support a variety of users with limited searching skills with their research. She stressed how important it was to have a search strategy, regardless of the level/experience of the student, and that students could not restrict themselves to one medium any longer, they had to use all the resources available to them.

Phew, it’s fantastic how much information all the speakers got across in the limited time they had and I came away from the event absolutely buzzing with excitement and ideas. Overall there was a really welcoming, informal and positive feeling to the evening and there was a great variety of speakers. It was one of the most informative and interesting events that I’ve been to and I’ll certainly be looking forward to next years LibTeachMeet.

Finally, I’d like to thank the organisers: the event was extremely well run and the cakes and snacks there were amazing! I think I overdid it on the beautiful lemon cake during the break half-way through but it was completely worth it! More details on the talks should be added to the London LibTeachMeet website sometime soon.